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Martin Wong – Painter

By PDX People

PORTLAND, Ore. – Although he’s been gone since 1999, Martin Wong is without a doubt one of the most influential Chinese American painters who lived during the last 100 years and also happened to be from Portland Oregon.

Portland Oregon Artist

Born in Portland Oregon 1946, Martin Wong  was an only child who was raised by a his parents Florence and Benjamin; he began painting at the age of 13 thanks to the strong support from his mother and after graduating from high school in 1964 he went on to college and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Ceramics from Humboldt State University.

The “Human Instamatic”

Following his college years, Wong would split his time between New York and San Francisco, producing new art and attending art fairs where he became known as the “human Instamatic” thanks to his uncanny ability to quickly produce a photorealistic portrait in a matter of minutes for only $7.50 each.

Rise to Fame

Following the freedom of expression and the sexual revolution of the 1970s, Martin Wong quickly discovered his own artistic style which has been described as “visionary” and social realism.

Paintings of Manhattan’s Lower East Side

During the 1980’s and 1990’s, Wong Became well known for his paintings of the Lower East Side in New York, which included people that he saw every single day like pimps, prostitutes and drug dealers who lived among broken down tenements which existed during that era.

American Sign Language

While he was becoming well-known as a painter during this era, Martin Wong was also instrumental in his work with helping the hearing deaf community when he created paintings and traffic signs for the hearing impaired.


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